16 – Demon Lord Route – III
After declaring Alvheim to be under my protection, King Aultry had Titania lead me, Aria, and Saphira to where we would be staying. Although he wanted to do it personally, with the potential mass hysteria due to recent events and the clean up required, the duty was given to Titania who was comparatively free.
Like before, we traveled down the winding halls of Alvheim. Unlike before, we weren’t in a fruitless race against time, so I could slowly take in the surroundings as we went.
Alvheim was an interesting place. Although the important rooms were on the inside of the world tree, like the inner sanctum, there were houses and entire plazas on the outside, completely open to nature. Yet, they weren’t crafted from hand but organically grown, as if the world tree itself had given form to the buildings.
Branches wove together to form walls, leaves provided roofing, and even stairs were created by the tree simply growing into that shape.
A true miracle of nature, and the blessings given to those who sought to abide by and protect it.
Of course, those people were far and few at the moment.
Whether the elves were in hiding or still scattered from the imperial soldiers attacking, we didn’t meet any others on our walk. Instead, there was a solemn silence in the air.
Although, that could just have been from my declaration as a Demon Lord.
Titania continued leading us through Alvheim, the winding paths heading higher into the Yggdrasil’s branches. She didn’t say anything, but from the frequent glances backwards, I could tell she had a lot on her mind.
Unlike her eldest sister, Aria seemed without a care in the world, humming to herself at my left side. It was enough to make people think that there wasn’t an ominous Demon Lord within a few steps of her.
Saphira must have realized that fact since she had crossed her arms and kept glaring at Aria from my right side. However, she seemed unwilling to reprimand Aria, likely due to the ramification of bypassing my authority.
If only the two of them could act like my faithful companion (stick) and just quietly support me instead of being so intrusive…
After breaking through the clouds, Titania came to a stop. “We are here, Lord Nazin.”
“…There is nothing here.”
We had come to a stop at the edge of a branch overlooking a sea of white clouds. Although wide enough to not worry about falling off, it was still far from a proper place to stay.
“Just wait a moment. Yggdrasil will surely provide for our… savior and protector.” She glanced back at me after saying that and then she glanced at Aria before frowning.
It seemed like the eldest princess still hadn’t reconciled with her baby sister being at the side of a terrifying Demon Lord.
But that was her problem to solve, not mine.
The branch began to tremble, violently shuddering with enough force to send me flying off the side. If not for the fact that I was floating in a cloud of dark miasma to reinforce the Demon Lord image, I might have actually been tossed off the edge.
“…It seems that Yggdrasil isn’t too happy about me either,” I muttered.
Although the force of the branch shuddering was enough to send me flying, somehow it left the others completely unscathed, only slightly unbalancing them.
I shook my head at the realization that even ancient trees could throw a fit and then focused on the opening before us.
Countless wooden limbs stretched out from the end of the branch. Growing, twisting, and weaving, the living wood slowly formed the outline of a one story house. A foundation, furniture, walls… the essentials of a home were grown before our eyes until a completely furnished and spacious house was standing where there had just been empty skies.
“…As you can see, Lord Nazin, Yggdrasil has provided you with a home. Quite a luxurious one as well. Although that was to be expected as you will be accomodating the light of our kingdom.”
“I see.” I stepped forward into the house and look around. “Hm… I suppose it will do.”
Behind me, I heard Titania mutter, “It will do, he says. Such arrogance… Ari. Are you sure that you want to go through with this? Surely father can find another path for us.”
Aria whispered back. “What are you saying, Tani?”
“I am saying that you don’t know what terrible things that person will do to you! If the humans were capable of such vile deeds, then what of a Demon Lord that even father doubts?”
I turned around and said, “Should I say that I’m impressed at your concern for your sister or disappointed at your recklessness?”
Titania froze. “L-Lord Nazin, I-“ It seemed like Titania was going to start pleading, but after looking at me a glint of determination shone in her eyes. She took a breath and said, “Lord Nazin. Though you may be our benefactor and though you may be powerful, if you think for a single moment that I will allow you to harm my Ari then-“
Aria called out and placed a hand on Titania’s shoulder. “It will be fine! No- No matter how it may seem otherwise, Lord Nazin won’t harm us.”
“Again with that, Ari. Has he placed a spell on you? Has he bewitched you? What in Yggdrasil’s name would cause you to say that for such an individual?”
Aria sighed and waved Titania away. “You wouldn’t understand even if I told you, Tani.”
“See! That is why-!”
“Tani!” Aria shouted. Dark ominous wind began swirling around her as she did, causing Titania to take a step back.
Aria closed her eyes for a moment and then sighed. With that act, the wind died down. However, when Aria opened her eyes they were sharp. “This is my decision. Not only that, but this is the only path left for us. If you truly care for me… you will leave me be.”
Titania froze, unable to say a word. The eldest princess stared at Aria for a long time and then she shook her head, causing her honey-colored hair to shift in the wind. “…Very well. If… If that is your wish, then your eldest sister will say no more.”
Titania spun around on her heel and walked away in silence.
When she vanished from view, I finally spoke. “…You know, Aria. You’re making me out to be quite the villain. Your sister was crying, you know?”
Aria huffed and walked inside the house, sitting on one of the chairs that Yggdrasil had grown in the house. “Isn’t that what you want, oh mighty Demon Lord Nazin?”
Saphira entered the house as well and took a seat on a chair near me. Then, she glared at Aria and said, “Foolish girl! To think you know better than my Master…! If not for the fact that you are essential to his plans, I would end you where you stand!”
Aria rolled her eyes. “As if you could, fell dragon. Weren’t you cut down by a simple stick?”
Saphira jumped to her feet. “You-!”
“Enough. Both of you.”
At my words, the two girls calmed down, though the hostile glares between them showed that the issue hadn’t been forgotten, only postponed.
I sighed. If only women were as simple as my faithful companion (stick)… but in any case, there were more important matters to discuss.
I waved my hand and formed a barrier from darkness, chaos, anti-magic, and my Information Concealment skill.
…Hm. I thought the goddess would have commented on that, but it seemed like she wasn’t watching at the moment. Or perhaps…
I shook my head and turned towards Aria.
“So… you remember. How much?”
Aria shifted her gaze from Saphira and then said, “Most of it. I remember you giving your life to let me run away. I remember you jumping in to kill the imperial commander and then bringing me away. I remember meeting again after ten years. And I remember traveling to Ars Nova before dying.”
That was indeed most of it. The question then was if this was a coincidence, the natural evolution of my ability, or the goddess’s meddling.
I turned towards Saphira. “And how much do you remember, Fi?”
“…I apologize, my Master, but I do not remember much. Although I have pieces of memory from clashing against you, my most recent are from our journey to Ars Nova as well.”
It was strange.
I thought that Saphira, whose soul I held in my grasp across time and space, would have remembered more. After all, other than my faithful companion (stick), she was the second individual in this world that I had spent the most time with.
I leaned against the wall and frowned. Was this the effect of Aria’s Savior melding with Absolute Memory? I wanted to say yes… but something wasn’t quite right. My intuition told me that there was more going on here than I could see at the moment.
“But anyway, Nowun!” Aria called out and then pointed at me. “How did you get so strong? No, what’s happening? Is life and death simply an eternal cycle?”
I blinked. Aria being so assertive… was still a bit odd. But I quickly recovered and said, “It’s complicated. Will it suffice to say I can manipulate time to a certain extent?”
Aria froze and stared into my eyes.
…Well, she tried to. With me still being shrouded in darkness, it was more like she stared where my eyes would be.
“Don’t tell me that my father was right in calling you an ancient catastrophe from the Lost Woods?”
I shrugged. “Isn’t it fine to know that I’ll stand beside you against the world if I have to?”
Saphira muttered from beside me. “…stupid elf girl. Can’t even appreciate my Master’s grace. If I…”
…I decided to ignore Saphira’s mutterings and stared at Aria.
Under my gaze, the young elf flushed and said, “There’s no need for that. I can take care of myself now.”
I raised an eyebrow… but then realized Aria couldn’t see that and said, “Can you?”
“While I can’t do anything about my appearance, I’m not young or weak anymore. With all of the times… lives? That I’ve had now, I’ve gained a lot of experience and wisdom. And didn’t you see how I took care of those guards?”
Aria pouted. “It’s true! I even have a new title and skills and everything! In the future, they even called me Demon Lord Tempest… well, after that slime abdicated his title, but still!”
I frowned and decided to use Analyze to verify her words.
Name: Aria Sylvania
Age: 18 years old
Combat potential: A+
Primary skill: Dark Wind
Primary titles: Dark Wind of Change, Youngest Elf Princess, Deserter
Summary: The one whose karma has become inextricably tied to your own. Through countless regrets and despair, her originally pure soul of wind has shattered. Yet, recalling your image and strength through her times of tribulation has caused it to stabalize, the cracks filled with the boon of darkness you bestowed upon her in a lifetime long ago.
She possesses great potential, but lacks experience in her current body. Against you or Saphira, she’s nothing more than a mere insect. Against a Brave-level combatant, she can win 7 out of 10 rounds. Against the average adventurer, she will win every bout.
She is desperately seeking your approval after having been abandoned countless times in the past.
“…I can’t say anything about what you once were, but right now you’re only stronger than the average adventurer. With what will come next, that is nowhere near enough.”
Aria huffed. “Then train me! I can handle it!”
“…Hmph. Are you sure?”
“Yes!” Aria nodded. “I’ll have you know that in the future I faced off against the emperor’s Braves all on my own and cut them down by myself!”
Seeing Aria’s enthusiasm, I decided. “Alright then… Let’s do this. Fi.”
Saphira stood at attention. “Yes, my Master?”
“Bring Aria up to speed.”
Both of the girls froze.
“This girl? But, my Master-!”
I waved my hand. “She’s important to my plans, so do it. I can’t have her dying when I turn my back for a moment. And Aria, Fi is the one who made me as strong as I am now.”
Granted, that was due to my unique skills and countless deaths, but that was neither here nor there.
Aria was crestfallen, but eventually said, “Fine.”
Saphira stared at me for a moment and then lowered her head. “I will do as you say, my Master.”
“Good.” I nodded and then started walking out of the house.
“Wait!” Aria called out to me. “If she’s going to train me, what are you going to do?”
I stopped. “Me?” I turned my head back at Aria and said, “I’m a Demon Lord. I do whatever I want.”
Leaving those words behind, I shattered the barriers I setup around the house and vanished into the wind.